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I'm looking for a general way in Japanese to express the following:

X is Y years old.

I know for human age we use 〜歳 and I have seen other expressions for buildings and trees (don't remember them off hand).

At least speaking about inanimate objects, is there a generic way to express age? Here is my guess (probably awkward):

This car is 20 years old.
この車は20年も古い

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It is not nearly as simple as in English or many other languages.

You could say:

「X + は + Y + 年前{ねんまえ}のものである。」

「X + は + Y + 年前からある。」

「X + は + Y + 年前できた。」 ←「できた」 here can be replaced by a verb in the passsive voice form such as 「作{つく}られた」,「建{た}てられた」, etc.

For buildings and trees, however, we have common set expressions.

Buildings: 「このビルは築{ちく}Y年である。」

Trees: 「あの木は樹齢{じゅれい}Y年です。」

For food and liquor items where aging is an important part of their values, we often use the expression 「Y年もの」. Unless used sarcastically, that expression generally carries a positive connotation with it. We say:

「30年もののワイン」、「これは4年もののミソです。」, etc.

Finally, we would never say:

「この車は20年古い。」 to mean "This car is 20 years old."

The only times when we use 「古い」 is when we say "A is Y years older than B." and emphasize that Y is a large number - "A is much older than B". The 「も」 is for emphasis and it is often used in combination with 「より」.  You can say:

「このBMWは、あのトヨタより15年古い。」

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. Regarding も, since I have seen the expression 5年も前, I thought "5年も古い" (just to emphasize it was a long time ago) would also be acceptable, but from what you are saying it isn't. – Locksleyu Jan 15 '17 at 6:05

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